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Understanding the differences between transformational leadership and transactional management will position you to be the pillar your team needs.
As the world continues to evolve and organizations move into an uncertain future, strong leadership is more valuable than ever. With this in mind, it is important to understand what a leader is, what a leader is not, and what best practices can be utilized to take your leadership journey to the next level.
Orientation is Important
Picture an organizational chart. From the top-down, you might see the CEO, followed by the leadership ranks filtering down through the rank-and-file team members. It’s difficult for people to not see a leader as “being on top” when viewing a chart from this perspective.
However, let’s change our perspective of the organizational chart. Instead of viewing it vertically on a screen, imagine laying it horizontally on a table. How does the orientation change the perspective? There is no up and down anymore; there is only forward and back. This is important because it means the leadership ranks are no longer above anyone. Instead, they are out in front clearing impediments and creating new paths.
This is a key distinction that needs to be understood. Leaders lead from the front, not from above. They cast vision, chart the course and empower their teams to be productive through development and leading by example. Orienting yourself correctly is an important first step to ensuring you are leading from the proper perspective.
Become a Mentor
When you enter a mentor/mentee relationship with someone, chances are you will spend more time talking about holistic development and transformational subjects than you will spend talking about performance-based or transactional topics. Especially when you mentor someone whose outputs are not tied to yours, it works wonders for keeping your advice narrated around outcomes versus results. Any time we get an opportunity to work this part of our brain is a win. Mentoring is a solid way to get those regular workouts in.
Mentoring keeps you fresh. The aspiring people you mentor will introduce new perspectives to you. Every year, it seems new jobs are being created that didn’t exist a decade before. These new jobs will be led by fresh leaders, and there is a lot to learn from them. A mentor/mentee relationship is truly symbiotic – you will get back as much as you put into it. Probably more. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with”. When developing your social and professional circles, adding a mentee is a great way to gain a fresh perspective from the people you spend time with.
Another wonderful advantage of mentoring is that it reinforces your own skills and behaviours. We’ve all heard the phrase “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. As we mature in our leadership roles, some of the skills that were once important to us may no longer be as practical to use in our day-to-day functions. However, if you are mentoring aspiring leaders, you are transferring skills to them and it becomes important to demonstrate some of the tools that you might otherwise keep packed away. As an added bonus, mentoring also helps you rediscover old lessons learned; which helps keep you engaged and inspired.
Develop Points of Power
Undoubtedly, you have specific and unique traits that can make you stand out in a crowd. Some people call these your strengths. Others may call them your specialities or expertise. I call them your points of power. Whatever you choose to call them, these attributes should be developed and highlighted because they will make you a better leader.
The Pareto Principle tells us that 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes, meaning that most of your success as a leader will come from a small number of your attributes. Knowing this, does it make sense for you to focus a lot of energy on multiple things? I don’t think so. Instead, I like to hone in on those few things that make the biggest impact and put extra attention on those.
When you reinforce and uphold your strengths, you’ll lead more naturally and authentically. Developing strengths also usually requires less effort and gives you better returns than working on areas in which you are weaker. This assumes, of course, that you are already meeting the minimum ante on required skills and attributes. If you are not, you must strengthen these first.
Let’s review an example of how this might look in practice:
Jack is a 7/10 at motivating people to work cooperatively and at driving organizational change, and a 3/10 managing administrative tasks. If he were to raise his administrative task work to a 5/10; but at the expense of lowering his points of power to a 5/10, he would become a Jack of all trades and a master of none.
What are your points of power? Think about this and continue to develop those traits to get the most out of your energy as a leader, and to lead as a more authentic version of yourself.
Know When to Manage and When to Lead
Language is a powerful tool and the words that you use to define your role are important. In many casual conversations, the terms manager and leader are used interchangeably when they should not be. What are some differences between a manager and a leader and why are the distinctions important? What things do they have in common? How do the two roles complement each other?
|Coordinates and organizes||Motivates and encourages|
|Focuses on results||Focuses on outcomes|
|Optimizes process||Optimizes people|
As we can see, they are similar but different. What’s important to acknowledge is the relationship between the two roles. A tight process with poorly motivated people is doomed to fail; as is a slipshod process being performed by high-performing people. Another important distinction is that being a good manager doesn’t require leadership skills; whereas being a good leader does require management skills. If you fancy yourself a leader, it’s okay to take credit for being a good manager as well. As a leader, you need to know when to use management skills based on the circumstances.
|When to Manage:||When to Lead:|
|Executing a predefined plan||Venturing into new territory|
|Specific results are needed||Organizational change is required|
|Process is a constraint||People are a constraint|
|Working with quantitative data||Working with qualitative data|
|Performance improvement in role is needed||Holistic development in career is desired|
Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis, two respected business and leadership experts, both opined that “Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.” Put simply, leaders chart the course while a manager navigates the ship. One blazes the trail while the other maintains it.
Leadership is Dynamic
Your leadership journey is as unique as you are but these best practices can be fit to any style. Begin with orienting yourself, become a mentor, develop your points of power, understand when leading versus managing is important and become the change catalyst your team needs.
About the Author,
For over a decade, Clint has developed high-performing leaders and delivered on transformative projects for a Fortune 500 company. He is an expert in process improvement and enacting positive organizational change. He is passionate about leadership development and helping people realize their potential. Follow Clint Riley on LinkedIn